Welcome to our Quarterly eNews with updates from the Peace Alliance!
- First Tuesday monthly, Empathy Circles, 5:30pm PT / 8:30pm ET and all times between and beyond
- 2nd and 4th Saturday Hope Story Circles 9:00am PT / 12 noon ET and all times between and beyond
- Second Tuesday monthly, National Monthly Peacebuilders Call, 5:30pm PT / 8:30pm ET and all times between and beyond
- Third Wednesday monthly, Department of Peacebuilding call, 5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET and all times between and beyond
Look for our weekly Monday email with all the events for the upcoming week, and check the Calendar of Events on the website for connection information for everything!
Message from our Managing Director
Happy New Year everyone! 2022 is here, and with the start of a new year, I always feel a sense of infinite possibilities. I wonder if it is the same for you? A fresh start is always an opportunity to reflect on past experiences and make new plans for future goals. There is a sense of hope for me during this time, and my wish is that each of you feel that too.
The theme of this quarter’s eNews, as we begin a new year, is Peace is a human right. It’s ironic to me that while I am going on about new opportunities and fresh starts, we begin this year’s first eNewsletter with an idea that is as old as time. There is a lot of discussion right now about the rights of people in the U.S. and beyond with loud viewpoints being tossed about- and many may not think of Peace as a part of that dialogue. I want to challenge you to dig in and consider this concept as a foundation for all that we do.
At The Peace Alliance, we often find ourselves in discussions about what exactly is Peace. It seems to be a concept that can feel like the proverbial “bar of soap”- the harder you try to hold onto it, the more it slips through your fingers. What would happen if we thought of Peace as a human right? What would our society look like if we all accepted this concept and worked hard to not only realize it, but sustain it, for each and every soul on this planet? What if every time we looked into the eyes of another we acknowledged that Peace was theirs by foundational decree; and if they are not experiencing Peace, then it becomes our responsibility to work together with them to find that Peace that is their right. What if we held our systems accountable when they either refused, or neglected to focus their efforts on the creation and sustainability of Peace for those they represent?
With these questions, I ask you to examine how you work for Peace for yourselves and those around you every day. Once you’ve identified that, I ask that you explore how or if you work toward Peace for those outside of your immediate radius, and make commitments to expand that outreach beyond what you do now. This is what we want to do at The Peace Alliance. We want all of us to collaborate and become an alliance of folks who, together, understand that Peace is a human right and that focusing our energies toward that core mission will transform how our fellow humans experience their lives as our neighbors.
Within this eNewsletter, you will read articles from our Leadership Council team leads that explore these questions and more. I hope you find inspiration within these ideas, and join us as an active participant in the quest to realize a society that moves from the core principle that Peace is a Human Right.
Honoring Archbishop Desmond Tutu – 1931-2021
Honoring Thich Nhat Hanh – 1926-2022
“The moment I die
I will try to come back to you
as quickly as possible.
I promise it will not take long.
Isn’t it true
I am already with you
as I die each moment?
I come back to you
in every moment.
feel my presence.
If you want to cry,
that I will cry with you.
The tears you shed
will heal us both.
Your tears and mine.
The earth I tread this morning
Spring and Winter are both present in the moment.
The young leaf and the old leaf are really one.
My feet touch deathlessness,
And my feet are yours.
Walk with me now.
Let us enter the dimension of oneness
and see the cherry tree blossom in Winter.
Why should we talk about death?
I don’t need to die
to be back with you.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Know Justice, Know Peace: Peace is a Human Right
Let us acknowledge the importance of this maxim, from the margins of daily life, from raising children to watching the news to working in peaceful productive places of employment to protesting in the streets for racial and economic injustice – and take it to the highest level of law and order in our current society, the Charter of the United Nations.
Member States of the United Nations uphold the Rule of Law and confirm their commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and justice, and to an international order based on the rule of law, which are indispensable foundations for a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.
‘The Charter provides the normative basis for friendly relations between States. Together with the wider body of international law, it provides a structure for the conduct of international relations. Establishing rule of law institutions is vital to ensuring immediate security and the necessary stability for peacebuilding to take root. Strong justice and corrections institutions, together with accountable police and law enforcement agencies , which fully respect human rights, are critical for restoring peace and security in the immediate post-conflict period. They allow for perpetrators of crimes to be brought to justice, encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and restore trust and social cohesion based on equal rights.
Establishing such conditions is equally important to peace and security and to sustainable development. In this regard, the United Nations recognizes the need to employ a broad approach by supporting the entire criminal justice chain.”
If we agree that justice is based on the integrity of fair conflict resolution – while upholding a strong moral compass based on the rule of law – in addition to adhering to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, then efforts to humanize the justice systems unilaterally – in all countries – en todos mundo – is the key to sustainable peace.
Let’s get to work.
Humanizing Justice Systems Lead
“And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights — the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation — the right to breathe air as nature provided it — the right of future generations to a healthy existence?” – John F. Kennedy
The United Nations defines human rights as those rights which are inherent to our nature, and without which we cannot live as human beings. The human right to peace is what we work for in our advocacy for a culture of peace and establishing a cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding to hold our nations and ourselves accountable to our ongoing obligation to build a peaceful world.
Our work is to AMPLIFY Peace as a Human Right. The Campaign for a Department of Peacebuilding (HR 1111/ DoP) works to establish a cabinet-level DoP in our federal government and to establish cabinets or ministries of peace globally.
Please take these actions:
- Click here to request that YOUR member of Congress to cosponsor HR 1111
- Take the January 2022 DoP Action: 11 Minutes for HR 1111
- Sign this Petition for Global Departments and Ministries of Peace
Peace is a human right — so much so that the Department of Peacebuilding bill is replete with references to the interconnection of peace and human rights. The bill states:
- “Peace is the essential prerequisite for the survival of humanity as we know it in
the 21st century.” (HR 1111, Fact #8)
- “The United Nations recognizes that promotion of peace is vital for the full
enjoyment of all human rights … a culture of peace is based on … a respect for
human rights …” (HR 1111, Fact #10)
- “We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on
respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of
peace … “ (HR 1111, Fact #12)
HR 1111 also calls for peace education to include the study of human rights movements and will establish within the DoP an Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights.
Click here to read the DoP bill.
Anne Creter and Dot Maver are long-time advocates of a DoP and global ministries and departments of peace. Learn more:
“Peace is a civil right which makes other human rights possible. Peace is a precondition for our existence. Peace permits our continued existence.”
– Dennis Kucinich
Department of Peacebuilding Lead
Thank you for your service and for all that you do everyday to ensure that the hearts and minds of our young people are cared for and nourished. We see your dedication, exhaustion, compassion, frustration, creativity, kindness and love; lots and lots of love! We want to take a moment to honor that love, your hard work and deep passion, and bow in gratitude for your noble service.
The Peace Alliance is committed to supporting and collaborating with you to provide the most relevant Practicing Peace in Schools peacebuilding resources. We acknowledge that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, you faced many personal and professional challenges within the educational system which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. We also know the pandemic continues to significantly impact your personal health and wellness and the overall wellness of your schools.
To better understand how best to support you, we invite you to share more about your needs by responding to this survey. As we are dedicated to educator advocacy and serving you, we would love to learn more about your specific needs at this challenging time so that we can work on co-creating relevant, concrete and wholesome supports that are healing and life-affirming for you and your learning community.
If you are reading this and are not an educator, find out more by reading this post from an educator about the current happenings on school campuses. Reach out to an educator in your community to extend your gratitude for their service and invite them to share their needs with us here.
Thank you so much for the greatest gifts: your attention and time!
Peace and gratitude,
Jelena Popovic (she, her)
Practicing Peace in Schools Lead
Peace as a Human Right – Community Peacebuilding
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home”. Australian Aboriginal proverb
It may be difficult to think of peace as a human right during these volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – VUCA – times. Our physical health is at risk, mental health concerns are on the rise, people are not experiencing a sense of personal safety, and there are growing tensions across communities leading to an increase in all forms of violence. A positive outcome of this presence is the concerted effort to create peace for ourselves and in our communities.
These VUCA times are similar to a beautiful story about a community that had lost its way, riddled with conflict, violence, sorrow and dis-ease. A beloved elder in the community wanted to use their wisdom to help the community remember itself and find its way home. This elder believed that the journey back to a culture of peace could begin with the gift of art and thought it important for the community to create a piece of art that would represent the concept of peace for that community.
In the new dawn, with the rising of the sun, the elder made a request of all the members of the community to paint a picture that they believe represents peace for their community. The community members were invited to bring the pieces of art to the center of town so that everyone could see each person’s representation of peace and decide which picture best represented peace for the community. Everyone in the community went to task to create their pieces of art. It became the focus of everyone in the community. They found that they were relieved to have a task that distracted them from their dis-ease.
On that day when it was time for each person to present their pictures, the center of town was filled with all types of varying colors, themes, and levels of artistry. The members of the community looked over all the pictures, noticing some similarities and some differences. Some members saw depictions of peace they would have never considered. Others agreed on themes that were familiar, but it came down to one picture that the community agreed represented peace. There was a different picture that the elder believed represented peace.
The picture the community chose was described as beautiful, harmonious, and serene. It was drawn with precise detail, light colors and a high level of artistry. It had a beautiful vast landscape of gentle water, rows of flowers, clear silver lined skies and a bright shining sun. Everything was perfectly placed. In contrast to the community’s picture was the picture chosen by the elder. That picture was described as disturbing. It was drawn in detail with dark colors and less artistry. It had a vast landscape depicting a perfect storm of thunder ripping across a dark sky and rain crashing down on turbulent water as the wind blew trees bare. The community could not understand why the elder was pointing out that picture as a symbol representing peace for the community. They began to get disturbed, being reminded of all their dis-ease. They questioned the elder, wondering why they were asked to create pictures of peace just so the elder could point out the least peaceful of all.
The elder sat in silence for a long moment before addressing the community. When just enough time passed, the elder asked the community to think about the process of building peace. The elder reminded them that the process began with a collective decision to seek peace. They each had to seek peace for themselves then share that peace with each other to find the similarities, differences and new ways of thinking about peace. The elder asked them to think about how they felt when they were seeking peace. The community remembered feeling relieved. The elder then turned to the pictures and shared, “the picture chosen by the community is beautiful and perfectly created. It doesn’t have any disturbance and, yes, it is an ideal picture of peace, almost unattainable. The picture I chose, however, has disturbance and discomfort. If you look closely in the direction that the thunder is ripping across the sky to meet the water crashing against the rocks and falling onto the land, there is a single Lotus flower, unwavering, in bloom, growing out of the murky mud. That is true peace; when you are free from disturbance amidst the perfect storm, that is the representation of peace that will help our community to remember, to find its way home when there is conflict, violence, sorrow and dis-ease.”
Like the process depicted in the story, community peacebuilding is an intentionally strategic, collective action towards freedom from disturbance – peace – even in VUCA times. The Peace Alliance offers our Blueprint for Peace as a collective action to educate the global community to find its way home to peace.
With Peace & Ease,
JoHanna “J” Thompson, MPA
Community Peacebuilding Lead
While policy makers, advocates and practitioners of peace have had indisputable successes in identifying ways of coping with the effects of conflict, the idea of peace remains abstract. In fact, defining peace is complex and problematic: peacefulness can have different meanings for different communities, as it embraces religious and ideological belief. This should not be a surprise.
We humans tend to view issues through assumptions which can color and control our perception. It is therefore common to assume that, as noble as it sounds, promoting a culture of peace might not be practical. As we struggle to make sense of how to translate the idea of peace into concrete action, looking at real examples should bring the awareness that the emergence of an actionable culture of peace is possible everywhere. One of these examples is Costa Rica.
On August 31, 2009, the Ministry of Justice and Peace (MJP) of Costa Rica took the place of the former Ministry of Justice, established in 1870. The main function of the MJP is to promote peace through programs aimed at reducing national conflict and preventing violent events. Since the Supreme Court of Costa Rica recognized peace as a human right, the MJP strives to promote a culture of peacefulness which encompasses all aspects of society. Through its efforts, the Ministry was able to promote educational opportunities for all (achieving a staggering 94.7% literacy rate), gender equality, demilitarization, and gun control. Moreover, since 1997, peace education has been mandatory in schools. Currently, Costa Rica is ranked high on the 2021 Global Peace Index, and 16 out of 149 countries on the World Happiness Report 2021.
How was a country recovering from a tremendous civil war able to emerge as a peaceful entity, in the spectrum of political instability affecting most of the world? The abolition of the Costa Rican army, on December 1, 1948, allowed the government to devote more resources to financing areas such as education, health, social and gender equality, agriculture, and social security. The decision by then-president José Figueres Ferrer to invest the budget traditionally destined to the armed forces in development projects is a key step in the establishment of Costa Rica’s culture of peace. Peacefulness and social harmony became concrete and achievable through collective efforts and hands-on peacebuilding.
The case of Costa Rica should not be viewed as an exception that proves the rule, but rather as an example to be followed. It is therefore vital to promote an idea of peace in which ideology and moral values support concrete action. As proven by the Costa Rican MJP, peacefulness and harmony need to be promoted, strengthened, and maintained by infrastructure and political action. The incredible results of the MJP prove that peace can, indeed, be tangible.
Member, Fostering International Peacebuilding Committee
Empathy is Natural, Violence is Not
When I first learned of the concept, Peace is a human right, the definition seemed so obvious. I googled the term because it is used to encompass a multitude of areas and I wondered about the definition. From Wikipedia, I found this: [Human rights] “are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights “to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being and which are inherent in all human beings, regardless of their age, ethnic origin, location, language, religion, ethnicity, or any other status…[human rights] are regarded as requiring empathy.” For purposes of this article, I will focus on how war and genocide denigrate human rights by exploiting our differences to condition people to hate and kill.
We are hardwired for empathy and connection; we are not hardwired to take a life. In World War II, when U.S. soldiers got a clear shot at the enemy, only about 1 in 5 actually fired. It wasn’t that they were cowards. On the contrary, they performed other perilous feats, including running onto the battlefield to rescue fellow soldiers, and sometimes they even placed themselves in greater personal danger by refusing to fire. At the moment of truth, they just couldn’t kill – they could not override years of moral training reinforcing the commandment “thou shalt not kill.” As a result, our military began searching for more effective methods of suppressing the revulsion to taking human life — virtually rewiring the brain to react first in certain situations with an automatic response to kill.
One technique is to create emotional distance between the soldier and the target by fostering a sense of us versus them – divide and conquer. Emotional distance often is achieved by categorizing targets as different because of their race, ethnicity, or religion. The military does whatever it can to deny the fellow humanity of enemy soldiers and is loath to repeat the spectacle of Christmas Day in 1914, when German and British soldiers crawled out of their trenches to share cigarettes, candy, and a soccer game.
Violating human rights is something we are taught to do; it is not our natural state of being. One of the most egregious forms of human rights violation is using our differences as a weapon to “justify” hate, war, and genocide. There would be no false justification for killing if we nurtured our hardwiring for connection and empathy; and if we celebrated and appreciated our differences instead of allowing them to be exploited.
Until that happens, each of us are called to seek understanding of each other and join causes that focus on healing, reconciliation and reparations for the damage already incurred. We can seek causes that change and dismantle structures that allow hate, war, and genocide to happen. We can participate in organizations that focus on being the peace as we move together toward ensuring human rights for all. I hope you can find something that calls you to action in all that the Peace Alliance offers. Each of us are required to shift the paradigm.
Information on the reluctance to kill and training methods used by the military to overcome a soldier’s reluctance to kill can be found in an article here, The Science of Creating Killers. I made a conscious decision to use the word – kill – and not sanitize it with a euphemism. Google Christmas Day, 1914 for a detailed account of this event.
National Field Coordinator
Welcome to 2022!
Our Peace Alliance had a vibrant and successful 2021, and descriptives of our past months might be “strong and growing”. You may have noticed one of our major transitions — a reformatting and simplification of the emails you have been receiving during the last month or so. Our organization has spent several months consolidating and upgrading our software programs, both with finances and outreach, specifically our website and social media. We are developing a new “look and feel” that hopefully simplifies and engages you in a new and powerful way. Knowing how important communication is, particularly during this COVID, we felt this was a critical time and financial investment in our future, and that the technology would amplify our outreach and education to new and different audiences.
Our donations continue to grow, and we will be focusing on expanding our “Peace Partner” initiative, which is essentially an ongoing stewardship program, providing funds for us on a regular and consistent monthly basis. Those funds create a financial platform from which we can continue to expand our initiatives, such as in the newly updated “Blueprint for Peace” endorsement tool and advocacy support for the long standing Dept. of Peacebuilding bill HR 1111 and its campaign.
There’s so much more, I encourage you to read on to hear the positive progress from our front line workers. We look forward to sharing reports from lots of sectors of our work and outreach.
Here’s to growing peace, one person at a time…
Judy Addicott Kimmel
About The Peace Alliance
The Peace Alliance empowers civic action toward a culture of peace.
Who We Are:
We are an alliance of organizers and advocates taking the work of
peacebuilding from the margins of society into the
center of national discourse and policy priorities.
We champion a comprehensive, collaborative approach
to peace and peacebuilding.